The sophisticated design of one of Kia Motor’s oldest hatchbacks is catching eyes everywhere once again. The Kia Picanto, a front-engine front-wheel-drive city car, has been in production since 2004. Its more recent updates have it competing with other popular 5-door hatchbacks such as the Chevrolet Spark, Fiat 500, and even the Volkswagen Golf.
Manufacturing of the Picanto takes place in a facility in Seosan, South Korea with the assembly done in some countries where it is more cost-efficient to ship knock-down kits than export fully-assembled vehicles.
There are three generations of this Kia model, viz.:
- 1st Generation: 2004-2011 (designed by Kang Lee and assembled in South Korea)
- 2nd Generation: 2011-2017 (designed by Peter Schreyer and assembled in Taiwan and South Korea)
- 3rd Generation: 2017-Present (designed by Peter Schreyer and assembled in South Korea, Algeria, and Russia)
1st Generation (2004-2011)
The first appearance of the Picanto in 2004 was not without trial and error. However, it was extremely affordable and sporty for the price, making it the perfect option for most young and middle-aged adults with love for adventure.
The first generation used the same platform as the Hyundai Getz but with a shorter wheelbase. There were three petrol and one diesel engines offered for the Picanto, as enumerated below, but their availability was market-dependent.
- 1.0-litre Epsilon G4HC 4-cylinder (petrol) – 45 kW power, 110 Nm torque
- 1.1-litre Epsilon G4HG 4-cylinder (petrol) – 51 kW power, 97 Nm torque
- 1.2-litre Kappa DOHC 16v 4-cylinder (petrol) – 57 kW power, 111 Nm torque
- 1.1-litre U-Line D3FA 3-cylinder (diesel) – 55 kW power, 152 Nm torque
Both 5-speed manual gearbox and 4-speed automatic transmission were available.
2nd Generation (2011-2017)
The second generation of the Picanto had its debut in late spring of 2011. The sleek look and longer body style of the hatchback hosted more legroom for passengers, which previously was inadequate. This generation received updates in style and technology, and the base price dropped significantly.
There were two petrol engines initially for this generation – a 3-cylinder 1.0-litre and a 4-cylinder 1.25-litre variant. Below are the second-generation engines and their rated output (with slight variations depending on the market).
- 1.0-litre Kappa II MPI 3-cylinder (petrol) – 51 kW, 95 Nm
- 1.25-litre Kappa II MPI 4-cylinder (petrol) – 64 kW, 122 Nm
These engines powered the front wheels of the Kia Picanto with either a 5-speed manual gearbox or a 4-speed automatic CVT.
The Picanto entered the Australian market in 2016. Only the 5-door Si trim was initially available, featuring the 1.25-litre Kappa II MPI petrol engine (63 kW, 120 Nm) coupled with 4-speed automatic transmission.
3rd Generation (2017-Present)
Kia unveiled the hatchback at the 2017 Geneva Motor Awards in Switzerland. The latest generation featured similar mechanicals as the second generation. It also carried over the previous 1.0-litre and 1.25-litre Kappa II engines but added a turbocharged direct-injection 1.0-litre Kappa II.
In Australia, the same 1.25-litre petrol engine (62 kW, 122 Nm) powered the four trims offered, with a 5-speed manual gearbox now also added as a choice aside from the automatic transmission.
In 2017, the trim levels were S (AEB), S (Phase 2), Si, and GT-line. The variants grew in number with the AO Edition, GT (Turbo) and S (AEB) AO Edition in 2018, and the X-Line in 2019. Some notable features in the third generation include SLS or straight-line stability, FCWS or forward-collision warning system, TVBB or torque vectoring brake-based, AEB or autonomous emergency braking.
The price tag rose exponentially after the introduction of the third generation but also ushered innovative technologies, such as a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, hill-start assist control, and a Qi wireless charger in the middle console.
This hatchback has won several awards, including the following:
- 2019 - Best Overall at the City Car of the Year Awards
- 2019 - Best Value Car at the Sunday Times Motor Awards
- 2018 - Best City Car at the Fleet World Honours
- 2011 - iF Design Award
The ANCAP tested a 2016-registered Kia Picanto, which received a 5-star rating. It garnered an overall score of 34.26 out of 37 points. Its detailed scores in the individual tests are as follows:
- Frontal offset – 15.12 (out of 16 points)
- Side impact – 14.14 (out of 16 points)
- Whiplash protection – acceptable
- Pedestrian protection – marginal
- Electronic stability control – standard
- Seatbelt reminders – 3 (out of 3)
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